Today, when I was wildly procrastinating doing any further study I went for a lovely walk and hung out at the waters edge talking with a friend who is in one of those places in life where you question things a lot. He is a relatively new friend, so I don’t know all the things to say to help and even if I did, I couldn’t fix anything for him. As we talked, at one point, I said something about being sure he wouldn’t think such a thing, and he pointed out that I don’t really know him. Further on in the course of the conversation the issue of trust came up. And it got me to thinking about the concept of trust and knowing people.
Now, I am NO expert on trust. Or even on knowing people. Remember, I am the girl who married a guy who left her high and dry to marry my kidlets Godmother. I invited the other woman to my birthing room. I may be insane. But. Here is the thing. Trust, for me, is the default position ( In my first marriage, that trust was misplaced, significantly).
Trust, to me, is the opposite of fear. Fear is checking your lovers phone for messages, or demanding an accounting of where they are going and with whom. Fear is imagining a list of all the things your partner may be doing that they aren’t telling you, and then asking them to prove that they aren’t doing them. Trust is believing that to the best of their ability, your partner (or as the case may be, friend, employee or care giver) is acting in your best interests. That they are in no way seeking to cause you harm or hurt you.
A while back a group of girls and I were chatting about trust in a kind of abstract way and one said something along the lines of “well, I would kill my boyfriend if he was chatting to a girl like that”. When I pointed out that my husband has more lady friends than guy friends and regularly spends time with them alone and even spends nights with them, it sparked an interesting discussion. The assumptions were that I had vetted these women (I did not), that I would have a problem if I didn’t know them (I would not, mainly because I trust my husband, but also because it seems like a lot of work to carry around all that worry all the time), that he had somehow earned my trust by not doing anything wrong up till now (I trust my husband, but I have no proof that he HASN’T done anything to breach that trust…).
I believe that if you tell me you won’t do a thing, or will do a thing, you mean it. I trust you. Unless and until you prove otherwise, I trust you. That totally has bitten me on the arse, at times, and I am sure it will again. But it is a way easier way to live in any relationship than the alternative, in my view. If you can bear with me for a minute, I will get back to why it is easier in a minute, by first talking about the other part of this: knowing someone.
Us human type people, we like to think we are mysterious. We like to think that our depths are unique and special and nobody else has felt the things we feel or had the thoughts we think. We like to think that we are hard to understand, complex beings. We make a study of how fascinating we are, and look for hidden motivations or meanings in everything from which flavour juice we prefer to how often we go for a run. We apply meaning to everything, and value to personality traits as if people have worth! As if people (softly here, this is a big one) can have more or less worth based on their secret insides!
Some of us are private and like to keep our hidden depths well hidden,share them sparingly with people we believe will keep them as secretly close as we did in the first place. We think of that as a measure of trust, that we are sharing a piece of ourselves with someone in return for them proving themselves worthy of our reward.
Others (like me, if you hadn’t already guessed it) love pulling apart our thoughts and feels and figuring out if other people share them. We share too much information, but we do it from a place of honesty that sometimes lets people find us endearing despite our irritating habit of asking personal questions. We share so easily, that whether or not you repeat it matters very little because, lets be honest here, I am putting this shit on the internet. If it was a secret, I would be pretty screwed.
Which ever type of person you are, you can’t help it. The things that you have experienced, the way that you were raised, the knowledge that you hold about the world; those are the things that make you who you are. You have been being taught from the moment you arrived on this earth. The thing is, though, that truth is not as simple and clear cut as we like it to be.
For example, I am trained in a medical model of knowledge, which often holds things to be true or not true. And yet even within that model, there are things that are simply “more true” or “less true”. I am informed by science, by facts, by anatomy. I am informed by experience, by what I have seen and how I have felt. I am informed by what I can see, observe, hear. I am informed by what I feel in response to my observations, even though I know that what I feel is a chemically mediated response to stimuli! So many things! So often contradictory!
The point I am trying (and quite possibly publicly failing) to make, is that we barely even know ourselves. Either we are deeply complex, very unique, highly individual beings, OR we are products of our upbringing, no more special or unique in our thoughts than any other individual. Now. My friend pointed out (Gently, but firmly) that I don’t know him (in this context, well enough to be able to draw a conclusion about his likely behaviour).
I argued the point, and got a sideways half nod, which I believe was an assent that maybe there was something in there with validity, but not enough for him to completely agree with. My argument was basically this: I trust my observation, intuition and experience of you to inform my conclusion, in the absence of the ability to do a randomised control trial to confirm my hypothesis of your likely response. (Ok, I admit, I did not word it this cleverly at the time. I thought it up later.)
I subscribe fully to the theory that who a person is can be most easily determined not by what they say, but by what they do. Coming back to my default position of trust, I rely a lot on my intuition and observation to determine how much trust I give. This particular person had informed me in many ways, that he is trustworthy. My observation of him is that he is a good person. That he is respectful of his colleagues. That he is reliable. That he cares about knowing more than one piece of a story. That we share values that are important to us. I believe based on my observations that he, like me, is at least trying to be respectful of people who hold beliefs or values built from experiences which we do not share. I feel safe in his company. I feel valued. I feel, even, vaguely intelligent, because he takes the time to listen to me. So, I believe that I know enough to form a hypothesis at least, about his likely actions in a given situation.
Given that in order to know more about a person, I have to trust them enough to share my hidden parts (mind out of the gutters, please people, I am being serious) and they equally have to trust me enough to share their hidden parts, isn’t it easier, like I said, to start with trust? At first, it isn’t YOU I am trusting. It is me. I am trusting MY judgement, trusting my intuition, my experience, my beliefs and values. I may also be trusting other people who tell me you are trustworthy… your professional qualifications, the way others talk to you, or more importantly the way they listen. My trust in you can be broken, by something as simple as my gut saying that I don’t feel safe with you.
I know all the ways in which my trust can be broken. And I know that in my world, once it is broken it is very difficult to repair, and there is a good chance that I will have no interest in even attempting to try. But, I don’t know how to start by not trusting. I feel like that would be really hard, to get someone to prove that they deserved my trust. Because, surely life would then just be a series of tests? But nobody would ever have the full answers to the test, because, you’d be breaking their trust if you admitted it was test…… man, that sounds really really hard.
I prefer to keep my options open. And believe that you aren’t trying to do me harm until such time as my intuition, observation, experience or learning shows me to be wrong. I am okay with being wrong, if i don’t have to live in fear.